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HEALTH

UPDATE: Merkel’s first coronavirus test comes back negative

Angela Merkel's first coronavirus test is negative, a government spokesman said on Monday.

UPDATE: Merkel's first coronavirus test comes back negative
Angela Merkel at the press conference on Sunday. Photo: DPA

“The result of today's test is negative,” government spokesperson Steffen Seibert told DPA on Monday. “Further tests will be carried out in the coming days.”

Earlier in the day, Seibert said Merkel had been “doing well” in self-imposed quarantine.

The chancellor had decided to self-isolate as a precaution after learning on Sunday that a doctor who vaccinated her last Friday was infected with the novel coronavirus.

“The chancellor is doing well,” Seibert told reporters.

It came as the head of Germany's disease control agency the Robert Koch Institute on Monday said he was “optimistic” that the restrictions were paying off, noting that the outbreak's “exponential growth curve had started to flatten a bit”.

Lothar Wieler said he expected to have a clearer view of the trend by Wednesday.

Dialling in from her Berlin flat, Merkel, 65, led a cabinet meeting that decided on a major rescue package for virus-stricken companies and employees in Europe's top economy.

Earlier in the day Seibert thanked everyone on Merkel's behalf for “the many, many well wishes and messages for the chancellor to stay healthy”.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus death toll in Germany rises as new measures come into force

The spokesman declined to say whether Merkel's chemistry professor husband Joachim Sauer was quarantining with her, saying he would not share information about family members.

Asked if he himself, as a close Merkel staffer, should self-isolate, Seibert said he last met with the chancellor on Sunday afternoon but had stuck to the advice of keeping a safe physical distance from people.

Ban on gatherings of more than two

News that Merkel was going into quarantine came shortly after she gave a press conference in Berlin where she showed no symptoms of ill health.

She used the press conference to announce fresh curbs on social interactions to contain a pandemic that has infected over 27,000 people in Germany and killed more than 100.

The latest measures include a ban on gatherings of more than two people, on top of last week's closures of schools, non-essential shops, bars and restaurants.

READ ALSO: Germany bans gatherings of more than two to control coronavirus spread

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point. 

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